Everything New is New Again


Sometimes even advanced news is old news.

On Tuesday morning, the NIH sent over an embargoed announcement, which I appreciated as otherwise I would have found myself trying to get from Crystal City to downtown during the tail end of rush hour. Pretty much everyone would be there, including the acting Health and Human Services Secretary Don Wright.

Then Tuesday night, the White House announced President Donald Trump was nominating Eric Hargan—whom he originally nominated for the number two job at HHS—to take over as acting secretary. A spokeswoman for the National Institutes of Health confirmed it would indeed be Hargan on the podium as the agency announced a partnership with 11 drug companies to advance immunotherapy, a promising field of cancer research in which researchers train the body’s white blood cells to best kill off cancer cells.

Hargan…and that is how I ended up covering Hargan’s first official public appearance as part of the official White House Cabinet.

“Under President Trump, we are going to continue making significant investments in cancer cures,” he said at the press briefing. “Advancing great American medicine in science is a top, top priority for this administration.”

The administration actually proposed cutting $1 billion from the NIH’s National Cancer Institute in fiscal year 2018 as part of a plan to cut the entire agency’s budget from $32 billion to $26 billion. But congressional appropriators rejected that plan pretty much across the board.

On another note, I thought it would be a good idea to assess how research institutions are gearing up for the revised Common Rule, which takes effect in about three months (I explained in last week’s blog why this is such a huge deal). So I spent a good part of Friday interviewing people about what institutions are doing.

Naturally, the very next day, a notice came out that the government is officially considering a one-year postponement. But it’s just a notice the White House Office of Management and Budget is reviewing the proposed rule for a delay, so mum’s the word from the federal government until that’s out. Believe me, I’ve tried.

So on Tuesday, it was back to the drawing board. Fortunately, all my sources understood.

This is definitely going to come up during an HHS advisory board meeting next week, which I will definitely be covering.

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